While the December jobs report — 155,000 net new payrolls, 7.8% unemployment rate — was more or less in line with official analyst expectations, plenty of Wall Street economists thought it just might surprise to the upside. Maybe 200,000 jobs or more went the “whisper” estimates.
It didn’t happen.
Instead it was same old, same old. The increase in total nonfarm payroll employment was only a smidgen better than the average 2012 employment growth of 153,000 jobs per month. And that was exactly the same as the average monthly gain for 2011. And at that pace, the US won’t return to pre-Great Recession employment levels until after 2025, according to the Jobs Gap calculator from the Hamilton Project.
Indeed, if the labor force participation rate last month, 63.6%, were the same as in December 2011, 64.0%, the “official” or U-3 unemployment rate today would be 8.4%, only a bit better than the December 2011 rate of 8.5%.
In addition, average hourly earnings rose by just 2.1% over 2012, about the same as inflation. That means real wage growth was pretty much flat.
Hard to call that progress. In fact, 2012 was another lost year for American workers.
Let’s run through some more of the December numbers to gain some perspective:
14.4%: The U-6 unemployment rate, which includes a) part-timers who want full-time work and b) the discouraged who want a job but haven’t searched for work in the prior month because they believe no jobs are available. Same as November.
10.7%: The U-3 unemployment rate if the labor force participation rate were back to its January 2009 level, when President Obama took office.
10.4%: The U-3 unemployment rate if the labor force participation rate were at the 2012 level predicted by the Congressional Budget Office before the Great Recession. This assumes that as the US ages, the LFP will continue to decline.
And this ….
5.2%: The unemployment rate that Team Obama predicted for December 2012 if Congress passed the $800 billion stimulus.